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Heart, Lung and Circulation

Are We There Yet? Exploring the Use of Single-Pill Combination Therapy in the Management of Raised Blood Pressure in Australia

Published:February 24, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hlc.2022.01.010

      Objective

      Single-pill combination (SPC) therapy is recommended as first-line therapy for most patients in global hypertension guidelines due to benefits of improved adherence and blood pressure (BP) control. We aimed to understand factors affecting SPC use in the management of raised BP in Australia.

      Design

      A mixed-method study comprising of qualitative (policy review and interviews) and quantitative (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme [PBS] data) approaches.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Australian and international hypertension guideline recommendations regarding SPC use; the Australian registration and subsidy approval processes of SPCs; use of SPCs on the PBS; cost-analysis of PBS-listed SPCs compared to free-drug combinations; perceptions of healthcare providers towards SPCs.

      Results

      The 2016 Australian Heart Foundation’s “Guideline for the diagnosis and management of hypertension in adults” does not recommend combination therapy (including SPCs) as first-line treatment. Additional challenges in the uptake of SPCs include: (1) the additional PBS requirements and barriers imposed for the listing of SPCs. (2) Script volumes for SPCs have not matched the rise in the number of SPCs listed for subsidy, have plateaued since 2016 and remained significantly lower than single constituent scripts. (3) SPCs are not subsidised by the PBS for initial treatment. Most SPCs provided substantial cost savings for individual patients compared to free-drug combinations. Health care providers were positive about the cost-saving and convenience of SPCs, however perceived negatives included inflexibility of SPCs during dose titration, medicine shortages, and potential adverse effects when initiating treatment with multiple drugs.

      Conclusion

      The safety, efficacy and cost-saving potential of SPCs have been established in the literature but several roadblocks in the existing health system in Australia impede uptake. Interventions addressing these barriers may facilitate improved uptake, which may in turn improve blood pressure control in Australia.

      Keywords

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